“For a long time to come, this book may well be the definitive work on the economic teaching of the modern popes.” —MICHAEL NOVAK
The Catholic Church has long been one of the most important—but least understood—authorities on capitalism and democracy.
For well over a century popes have offered profound reflections on the economic and political order in their social encyclicals—from Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum (1891); to Pius XI’s Quadragesimo Anno (1931), written during the Great Depression; to John Paul II’s Centesimus Annus (1991); and on to Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate (2009). But this estimable intellectual tradition has often been misunderstood, with partisan groups variously proclaiming Catholic social teaching to be left-wing or right-wing, pro-socialist or pro-capitalist or even pro–“third way.”
Papal Economics corrects the record. Father Maciej Zięba takes readers on an enlightening tour through the Catholic Church’s social teaching on capitalism and socialism, wealth and poverty, democracy and authoritarianism, and more. His incisive analysis shows that the Church displays a profound understanding of democracy and—perhaps more surprising—strong support for free markets. As Father Zięba demonstrates, popes have explicitly rejected socialism while praising a democratic state and market economy.
Of course, this praise is not unqualified. Papal Economics shows how the Church, especially through John Paul’s teachings, distinguishes true democracy from false, and praiseworthy capitalism from the kind to be rejected. Moving beyond the narrow confines of secular discourse, Catholic social teaching highlights the dangers that arise when the market and the state are elevated to absolutes in themselves—when man’s spiritual dimensions are subordinated to his material ones. Ultimately, anyone who cares about free markets and democracy must understand, and defend, the foundations on which they are built. For as John Paul suggested, in a world without truth, freedom loses its meaning, the market loses its efficiency, and democracy yields to statism.
With the world still struggling to recover from economic crisis—and deeply divided over the proper path forward—this book’s efforts to set the record straight on the Church’s economic teaching and expand the terms of the debate could not be more timely.